This April, while students across the country are protesting the pathetic lack of gun-safety laws in this country after yet another mass school shooting, we also need to pause a remember that America’s children, students, and educators continue to be terrorized by guns 24 years since the Columbine High School massacre. I was a junior in high school when the shooting occurred and my generation and the generations younger than me have witnessed, time and time again, that this nation of ours cares more about guns than children.
I’m going to say it again: America loves firearms more than children.
Thoughts and prayers have never been enough. And I hope that when politicians, particularly Republicans who have a warped view of guns, safety, and the Constitution, think about which child is next to be slaughtered. Their love of guns comes before common sense, decency, and the sanctity of life. When they pose with their military-grade assault weapons for their holiday photos, do they imagine that their constituents will applaud their reckless abuse of gun safety.
Spare me the hollow, false excuse that it’s not about the guns. It is the guns. In 2020, firearms became the leading cause of childhood death in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, deaths among children ages 1-19 jumped nearly 30% between 2019-2020. Gun violence is an epidemic and is preventable. Mass shootings at schools, our houses of worship, movie theaters, grocery stores and in our own homes are not some inevitable aspect of life. There are gun safety laws that can be passed to help curb this epidemic. The majority of responsible gun owners also want to see legislation that will strengthen background checks, raise the minimum age to purchase all semiautomatic firearms to 21 from 18, and enact Extreme Risk Laws. The “thoughts and prayers” approach has done nothing to stop the bloodbath.
Earlier this week, Missoula’s Hellgate High was placed in lockdown after a credible threat. I texted a friend whose two kids attend Hellgate to see how his family was faring. His immediate response: “Nothing will change unless this country changes its priorities. Unfettered access to guns means more children will die.” I don’t know of one parent who hasn’t been impacted by gun violence, whether that’s praying that the lockdown won’t result in carnage or hoping that their children will come home from school safely after several of their classmates did not.
Until policymakers stand up to the gun lobby and coral their sick obsession with gun culture, I will continue to believe that this nation loves firearms more than our children. Please, prove me otherwise.
Maggie Doherty is a writer and book reviewer who lives in Kalispell with her family.
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